It’s more than 20 years since Paul Holley had his greatest moment as a jockey. At the 1991 Cheltenham Festival he rode Oh So Risky to win the Triumph Hurdle for David Elsworth. Yesterday’s triumph, leading home the racing contingent, must have given him immense satisfaction. He came home 160th overall, and fifth in his age class (45-49), in a time of 2hrs 39.35.
A fine achievement of which he said, “I’m tired but well pleased. It was an absolutely fantastic experience and the crowd was the biggest I’ve seen in London. I struggled for the last couple of miles but was hoping for something like the time I got. I’m having a pint of Guinness. It’s my first in four months and going down well.”
Fully deserved, too. Lisa Delany, manager of the Jockeys’ Employment and Training Scheme didn’t let on what she was drinking. She had struggled through the last quarter of the race and was in need of something else restorative after completing in 4hrs 37.15. She knew things could only get better from then on. “I’m alive. Both my knees gave up at 21 miles and I had to walk the rest of the way. One going would have been OK but to have two screaming at me was difficult. I kept thinking of AP McCoy. He would have finished with a broken leg, so I couldn’t be a wuss.”
I hope McCoy recognises what an inspiration he is to some people.
For former Coral boss Wilf Walsh the race represented a last hurrah, no his doubt in part due to his imminent veteran status. A time of 4hrs 38.04 was thoroughly presentable, but his experience crystallised his decision to quit whilst ahead. He said, "I nearly died. It was warm and I’m not far off 50 – they make for a fatal combination. For someone of my vintage it was too much. I can now announce my retirement from marathon running. And it won’t be a Paul Scholes retirement either.”
Well done to them all, and to the many charities who will benefit from their efforts.